Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

Labour Party Conference Speech - 24/09/2014

Lab Party

DEPUTY LEADER Conference Speech Harriet Harman 2014


Conference, it's great to be here in mighty Manchester.

And we meet in historic and difficult times.  It's a time of crisis in the Middle East with ISL causing misery to hundreds of thousands of innocent people. We must learn lessons from the past and ensure that the world's approach to dealing with the crisis includes not just military but also diplomatic and humanitarian action.

Less than a week ago people in Scotland were going to the polls and we are all so relieved that they decided to stay with the UK because when it comes to the cause of progressive politics, the struggle for social justice and the fight to kick out the Tories, we are better together.

So we owe a big debt of gratitude to all you who campaigned and especially to Alastair Darling, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Anas Sarwar.

But there's one person who played a key role in keeping the Union together.  Someone who's had the biggest comeback since Cheryl Cole made it back onto the X factor....our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. 

We know that success always has many fathers.  But let’s not forget it has mothers too, and I would like to pay tribute to two extraordinary women who played a leading role in the Scottish campaign - Johann Lamont, and Margaret Curran

But as well as the historic vote in Scotland last week, this conference is history in the making as it's the last time we gather before we *fight the general election, *win the general election and *make Ed Miliband the Prime Minister.

And that's why there has been a unity and determination about this conference. People feel that change is coming and that Labour are that change.

Now every year I say conference is historic but it has never been more true.  As someone once said....  this is no time for sound bites...... but conference, I feel the hand of history is on our shoulder

And the fringe events and bar activity have been as vibrant as ever.

It was great to go round all the receptions.

But the only thing was that once again I've been the victim of mistaken identity.

And I've worked out what the problem is....it's my hair.  I'm used to people coming up to me and saying well done on the Olympics, because they think I'm Tessa Jowell. .... but I didn't quite know how to react when this time I was leaving a fringe and on the way out I overheard someone say "why's Grayson Perry just made a speech at USDAW?"

It's a great privilege to speak at all the receptions but it can be a tough gig especially when you're competing with the free bar and buffet.

I'll be honest with you, when I went head to head with the Cheese Cobbler at the West Midlands.... there was only one winner and it wasn't me.

But people are very kind and it was lovely to be introduced at Young Labour as "the voice of the young generation"... this was a bit surreal bearing in mind I own tights that are older than the guy who introduced me.


I think we can all agree that this year we have had an exceptional chair of the NEC in Angela Eagle

We know she’s a woman of absolute principle and dogged commitment to Labour's progressive values but she’s also got a really sharp sense of humour which we see her use to good effect as Shadow Leader of the House After the Tory reshuffle, she was taunting William Hague saying when he was Foreign Secretary he was swishing around the world mingling with Angela Merkel and hanging out with Angelina Jolie and now he's Leader of the House of Commons he’d have to make to do with Commons Angela. But there’s nothing common about our Angela. In fact, she’s got quite a lot in common with Angelina Jolie. Stay with me…. Angelina is known for her glamorous outfits - usually skin tight - So is our Angela, usually day-glow jackets. Angelina in her films, vanquishes useless men – so does our Angela.  She’s already got rid of two Tory leaders of the Commons – Sir George Young and Andrew Lansley.

Angelina has a very hot, partner who she adores – so has our Angela...Maria So eat your heart out Angelina Jolie, we’ve got Angela Eagle – and she's a jewel in our crown. We know that David Cameron's got a problem with women.  We'll never forget that time in the House of Commons when he told Angela Eagle to "calm down, dear” and he's at it again.  Today we hear he's described Her Majesty the Queen as "purring down the phone at him." And We Are Not Amused. Sometimes it’s like we've got David Brent as Prime Minister.


Conference, as we go into the final months before the General Election, we are going to be in the fight of our lives and when the country decides who will be their next Prime Minister, there will be a clear choice.

Ed is a leader who at every stage of his leadership has rewritten the political rules and challenged conventional wisdom.

He stood up to the might of Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail. He challenged the view that political leaders must never question the markets even when they don't work for everyday people He took on the energy companies who are ripping people off.

He's rewritten the rule that says Labour has to tear itself apart in opposition.

And, perhaps most remarkably, he's rewritten the rule that say that it’s just not possible to get back into government after only one term.

Because within just 4 years he's taken our party to within touching distance of Downing Street.

Yesterday Ed set out a great plan for the future of Britain.  Yesterday he spoke about Labour's plan to bolster our precious NHS with more GPs, more nurses and more midwives.

And he explained clearly how we will finance that without extra borrowing - though a mansion tax, a crackdown on tax avoidance and a tobacco levy.  The Tories are challenging our numbers.  But, you know, no-one wants to hear politicians endlessly arguing about the figures.  So let’s solve that problem right now.  Let the independent Office of Budget Responsibility audit Labour's plans.  So that the public will see that our plans add up.  Here's my challenge to The Tories.  You cannot criticise our numbers while you are blocking an independent scrutiny of them.  Let us go to the OBR.  And if you won't let us, let's hear no more.  You can put up or shut up.


David Cameron is also defying conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says that in your first term as Prime Minister you get a honeymoon.  But already his own party hate him and are eyeing up their next leader. Conventional wisdom says that you are at your strongest when you're a new Prime Minister, yet he's been too weak to stop them "banging on about Europe". Conventional wisdom says that a Prime Minister always gets two terms, but his party can see the writing on the wall and that why so many Tories are throwing in the towel or defecting to UKIP.

Divided parties do not win elections And what a contrast. We are united and fighting to win. They are fighting like rats in a sack and the only person they are rallying behind is not their party leader at all - it’s the man on the zip-wire - Boris Johnson.

But party leaders don't get it right all the time.  And Ed - it’s fair to say - there've been a few incidents where the photograph hasn't quite worked out how you wanted.

But who would you rather have? A man who one day had a bad photo with a bacon sandwich or a man who's Director of Communications was sent to prison.

And can I just say, David Cameron's photocalls are nothing to write home about.

Do you remember the photo we saw this summer when he was on one of his several holidays, where he was pointing at fish.... cold and slippery.... and the fish didn't look too good either.

And as for the one with him on the beach in his wetsuit Baywatch style - they might both be called David , but there there's no chance of any confusion between David Cameron and The Hoff.


Conference, if there is one thought I want us to take away - it is this - we can win this election.

I know the task is daunting.

We have hard work ahead but we can do it - because we must.

We cannot allow this country to be ravaged by another 5 years of Tory rule.

A government which poses the biggest threat to the NHS.

A government protecting millionaires while making it harder for everyone else.

A government who've seen a record expansion of food banks. - causing the despair and sense of hopelessness which UKIP preys on.

Here at the women's conference last Saturday, a woman told us that she took an American visitor to see the food bank where she volunteers. Her American friend was deeply moved and asked "Does your government run this?" She replied, "No - our government caused this."

But food banks are not just a shame on the Tories, they are a shame on the Liberal Democrats who have helped the Tories every step of the way.

People have suffered because of that and we will make sure that the Liberal Democrats pay the price next May.


We know we are going to face the fight of our lives and the Tories are awash with money. - a lot of it in Roubles.

They may be able to outspend us, but they will never out organise us. We can't match their millionaires and oligarchs, but they will never match our unity and determination.

When it comes to team Labour - we have the best in the business.

Our people out front, our elected representatives at local and national level, but also those behind the scenes.

Our party staff, led by General Secretary Iain McNicol, are second to none.  Whether it’s in our HQ our out in in our regions, they are utterly professional and for them it's never just a job - it's a cause. And it’s that passion and commitment which is key to us winning the General Election.


We know that the Tories are going to be underhand and it's going to be a really dirty fight.

And Conference, we've got to face up to how bad it's going to be.

It's going to be even worse than when they took that Baked Alaska out the freezer on the Great British Bake Off.  That's how bad it's going to get.

We know The Tories are going to throw a lot of mud at Ed and our party. 

But we've got to be really clear about why they're doing that.

They attack the messenger when they can't argue with the message.

But we are up for that fight.

We've got the policies, the people and the principles.

But above all we have the duty to save this country from another term of Tory rule and give  people the hope of a better Britain.



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